The Downrange Acoustic Toolbox: An Active Solution for Combat-Related Acute Acoustic Trauma

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Lee JD, Bowley DM, Miles JA, Muzaffar J, Poole R, Orr LE 20(4). 104 - 111 (Journal Article)

Frontline military personnel are at high risk of acute acoustic trauma (AAT) caused by impulse noise, such as weapon firing or blast. This can result in anatomic disruption of the tympanic membrane and damage to the middle and inner ear, leading to conductive, sensorineural, or mixed hearing loss that may be temporary or permanent. AAT reduces warfighters' operational effectiveness and has implications for future quality of life. Hearing protection devices can mitigate AAT but are not completely protective. Novel therapeutic options now exist; therefore, identification of AAT as soon as possible from point of injury is vital to ensure optimal treatment and fulfillment of the duty of care. Early recognition and treatment of frontline AAT can maintain the deployed team's capabilities, avoid unnecessary case evacuation (CASEVAC), and raise awareness of military occupational AAT. This will help prioritize hearing preservation, maintain the fighting force, and ultimately retain personnel in service. The UK Defence hearWELL research collaboration has developed a frontline protocol for the assessment of AAT utilizing future-facing technology developed by the US Department of Defense: the Downrange Acoustic Toolbox (DAT). The DAT has been operationally deployed since 2019 and has successfully identified AAT requiring treatment, thereby improving casualties' hearing and reducing unnecessary repatriation.

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